Why US sports betting could become a $45 billion business

Published on07 FEB 2024

US sports betting has rapidly grown into a $10 billion industry since a 2018 Supreme Court decision allowed US states to legalize the practice. Significant expansion could remain ahead, according to Goldman Sachs Research.

“We expect growth to be driven by a combination of new state openings and a higher share of the consumer wallet being spent on sports betting over time,” says Ben Andrews, head of leisure and travel research for Goldman Sachs Research in Europe, where legal sports betting companies have a longer history. Based on a model that evaluates states’ propensity to approve sports betting legislation and consumers’ spending potential, Andrews forecasts that Americans will legally spend $45 billion on sports betting each year when the market is mature.

“We’re in the middle innings of the development of the market,” adds Noah Naparst, who evaluates sports betting companies for Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “At this point, about half the states have legalized mobile sports betting. The product is continuing to get better, with more sports being offered. Promotions are continuing to come down. Existing markets are still growing at a rapid clip. So we’re not mature yet, but we’re not in the early wildcat days of the market anymore, either.”

Interestingly, the rise of app-based betting has also changed the types of wagers that bettors make. While people often associate sports betting with predictions about what the game’s final score will be, parlays – which combine multiple wagers into a single bet – have become increasingly popular. Bettors like them for their potential lottery-like payouts, and operators value their high margins.

“The rapid rise of parlays has been a distinctive feature of sports betting’s rise in the US,” Andrews says. “We expect parlay penetration to continue to rise from here, along with improved in-game betting products, and greater personalization across the user experience, bets offered, and promotions.”

Naparst highlights the rise of in-game betting as a development that could also have important implications for media companies.

“The future of sports betting is the convergence of media and sports and betting,” Naparst predicts. “You’re watching a basketball game in your betting app, and a player is about to take a free throw. The odds that he or she makes it pop up on screen, and the app asks, ‘Do you want to do this bet or not?’ That’s where the industry is heading.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s Super Bowl, Naparst notes that the annual event is “quite significant from a customer acquisition and visibility standpoint.” But he adds that since it’s only one game, “it’s not so big from a revenue standpoint. And that’s a good thing; because these companies are diversified across a lot of sports and a lot of events, if one event goes against them, they can make it up in the long run.”


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